What a fantastic walk today! We don’t usually look at weather forecasts but many of the other pilgrims have been warning us that we were in for a spell of rain starting today. Sure enough, as we walked out of the hotel this morning, it was drizzling lightly. We stepped back in the door, put on our rain gear and started to walk… just as it stopped drizzling. Welcome to the Camino! Well it stopped and started many times today but it rarely rained hard. The only time we saw our shadows was around 10:30 to 11:00am.
This drizzle and cloud cover made for perfect walking weather and we could tell by how fresh we were when we finished. Some pilgrims had left very early this morning to walk the long 32km to Bilbao but I don’t think we would have liked that even with the weather. I’m happy for them though that it wasn’t sunny and hot or raining buckets.
By the way, 10:30am is the wrong time to start seeing your shadow. That’s when the heat really starts to sap our energy. As soon as I started to heat up, I prayed to God for the clouds to return. Soon after, we had the heaviest rains. I immediately reminded God that I asked for clouds, not rain clouds. He was cool with that and turned the faucet down to a manageable level. He’s my friend.
Somewhere up near the Alto de Morga, there was a little old lady sitting out on her front porch selling soft drinks, beer, coffee and fruit. A can of Coke and a can of Amstel were both 1.50€. She also had water to refill bottles, a sello and a sign that said she will rent a room to tired pilgrims. It was a welcomed rest stop after the 400m climb. Note though that this was the only refreshment available between Gernika and Larrabetzu, about 17km away.
Regarding Larrabetzu and the potential for some food, we arrived there quite hungry at 12:30pm. As we climbed the ramp into the small square of the village, there appeared to be two taverns open on opposite sides of the square. On the left, there was a small, cosy but lively place with several men inside. We started towards that one when Melanie said she wanted to try the quiet looking place on the right of the square. We went in there instead and were immediately and warmly welcomed by seven other pilgrim friends and a delightful pair of hostesses. The barmaid proudly showed us her photo from Santiago, taken at the end of her Camino Frances. They provided delicious pilgrim menu lunches and pinchos, all served with a smile, and, more importantly, conversation in Spanish. Some of the pilgrims eating there were staying in that village but some were just resting before going on to Lezama (3.4km), Zamudio (6.4km) or even Bilbao (14.2km!). All we’re looking out the window at the rain to help them decide if they hadn’t figured out their destination already.
For those following us, about 8km out of Gernika, you make a sharp right turn onto a road, soon after that, there is a sharp left and a water replenishment station. About 800m after that, following on a small road, there is a new section of trail that seems to be a common thing every day. These new sections appear to aim to get us off roads onto dirt or gravel paths but also seem to add a fair amount of climbing and descending. This particular section was well-marked only until the peak of that trail. As we came down through a small group of houses, and much of the way to Goikoeleizalde, the trail didn’t have near as many arrows as normal. You need faith and common sense (and / or GPS) to stay on the right way. It was here that we had our first real muddy bits this week but it wasn’t too bad.
We had decided last night that we can see Bilbao after our Camino, before we fly back to Singapore, so we did not have to stop there now. That saved us from having a short 20km day today and an even shorter 11km day tomorrow into Bilbao. We are aiming to have close to 25km days so with the 23.6km today, we’ll head for Portulegete tomorrow, a 27.2km day. That also meant that we got stuck in one of the few places to stay in Zamudio, the lovely farmhouse, Agroturismo Iabati Aurrekoa. We are splurging now because our pensión for tomorrow is supposed to be a dump. That pensión costs barely double the rate for the youth hostal for one person but is a private ensuite room. Booking.com reviews say it is going to be a noisier sleep than in an albergue but we will deal with that.
The trails were fantastic today most of the way. Once outside Gernika, the majority of trails were dirt tracks, rocky dirt tracks or gravelly dirt tracks with a little bit of dead quiet forest roads thrown in for good measure. The end of the good trails though was at Goikoeleizalde, about 16.4km from Gernika. At that point, it was all road walking to Zamudio. While we always walk every step of a Camino, not everyone likes walking along side a fairly busy road even if there are sidewalks and guard rails (which this road sometimes had). For those following us, if you are so inclined, there is regular city bus service from Goikoeleizalde or Larrabetzu to Zamudio and Bilbao. I don’t judge.
I’m typing as we wait for our dinner in a tavern about 15 minutes walk away from the farmhouse (that’s about 500m when using the Camino Shuffle as transport). We can’t order until 8:00pm because, as usual in most of Spain, we must wait for the cooks to return to work after their siesta. We will be the only people having dinner at least until 9:00pm. Welcome to Spain!